On a typical day, hundreds of cars whizz past Woody’s Chair Shop, located a few steps away from Highway 70 West just outside of Marion. The building appears nondescript, and it is understandable why many speed right on by. For decades however, seekers of old-fashioned handmade chairs- as well as seekers of a warm welcome and a ready batch of stories- have sought refuge in Max Woody’s shop, and they have received it.
Max’s father passed away when Max was young, but his grandfather Martin Woody taught him the family trade of handcrafting custom-made ladderback chairs. He’s been at it for nearly 60 years, now with two sons following in his footsteps.
Max Woody knows his way around a fiddle as well as a lathe.
In addition to having received orders for chairs from all over the country (and beyond) and currently with a 3-5 year waiting list, Max Woody has another claim to fame. It was right here in his shop that the Friday night pickin’ parties that grew into the tradition known as Old Fort Mountain Music began. (You can watch our feature about Old Fort Mountain Music here.)
So sit back and enjoy this visit to Woody’s Chair Shop. Max tells us how his craft has been handed down through the family, plus he takes us into the workshop, where he still works on machines that he proudly declares “obsolete”:
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Shuford Daniel Hilton, Bill Hendley's great-uncle, is seen throwing a pot at the old Hilton Pottery in Pleasant Gardens in this photo from the NC Office of Archives and History.
In 1934, Ernest Auburn Hilton established Hilton Pottery in McDowell County. A fifth-generation potter, he one of the first in western North Carolina to use color in the making of pottery. Color had been used by one other potter, Jake Weaver, who had died almost a hundred years earlier. “Aubie” Hilton’s wife Clara Maude was also a potter and later became well known for her dolls as well. (Information from History of McDowell County by Mildred Fossett.)
The Hiltons’ grandson, Bill Hendley, is continuing the tradition. In this video, he talks about the Hilton method of firing the kiln, painting, and color.
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